Diversity and Inclusion:

The Chief Security Officer’s Secret Weapon

Clarity Up Front: 

  • The security challenges faced by corporations are increasingly complex 
  • Complex problems are best solved by diverse teams  
  • Diverse teams can only realize their potential if they are also inclusive 
  • Corporate security is near the back of the pack on diversity and inclusion – it needs to catch up fast  
  • Corporate security leaders need to do five things to build diverse and inclusive teams – and influence at the highest levels of their corporations  

The security challenges faced by corporations are increasingly complex 

Corporations are operating in the most complex, complicated and fast-moving environment we have ever seen – it’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is part of a longer and broader trend among a handful of so-called ‘rogue states’ of aggression, rejection of international institutions and norms, and the rise of populism and polarization.  
  • Technology brings tremendous opportunities – but also fragility and dependency, exacerbated by hybrid working patterns. It’s not surprising that almost all boards consider cyber threats to be high or very high. 
  • The rise of misinformation and disinformation offer an opportunity for Chief Security Officers (CSOs) as their boards seek out trusted advisors – but communicating security risks and influencing the behaviour of a workforce when less than half (44%) of people globally trust ‘most of the news most of the time’ is an uphill battle.  
  • Gen Z will make up more than 1 billion of the global work force within the next decade and are already making their mark on corporate priorities. They rate ethics and purpose equal to financial security and career fulfillment in their job choices and are driving much of the renewed emphasis on environmental, social and governance standards. With security’s important contribution to ‘license to operate’, this trend will increasingly impact how corporate security is delivered.  

Diversity isn’t a trade-off for excellence – it’s critical to it. 

There is growing and compelling evidence that diversity isn’t just the “right thing to do” – it’s good for the bottom line.  

  • It improves decision-making: group think creates blind spots; homogenous groups are more likely to form judgements that combine excessive confidence with grave error. Diverse groups of problem solvers consistently out perform groups of the best and the brightest. Recruiting and harnessing the talents of diverse teams creates collective intelligence’, bringing differences of experiences and thinking styles to problem solving. 
  • It improves productivity: one study found that an increase in racial diversity of one standard deviation increases productivity by more than 25% in legal services, health services and finance. A McKinsey analysis of companies in Germany and the UK found return on equity was 66% higher for firms with executive teams in the top quartile for gender and ethnic diversity than for those in the bottom quartile. For the US, the return was 100% higher.  
  • It increases profitability: for diverse companies, the likelihood of outperforming industry peers on profitability has increased over time, while the penalties are getting steeper for those lacking diversity. There is a 48% performance difference between the most and least gender-diverse companies.  
  • It enhances innovation: A study of 171 German, Swiss and Austrian companies found a clear relationship between the diversity of a company’s management teams and its revenues from innovative products and services.  

 Diversity encompasses a range of things: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation and disability. It’s also about cognitive diversity from different personality types and thinking styles, as well as generational.  

Diverse teams can only realize their potential if they are also inclusive 

Diversity only delivers value if everyone can contribute freely and equally in an open culture – that’s inclusion. As Adam Galinsky of the Columbia Business School put it, “In complex tasks, from flying a plane to performing surgery to deciding whether a country should go to war, people need to process and integrate a vast amount of information while also imagining myriad possible future scenarios… To make the best complex decisions, we need to tap the ideas from all rungs of the hierarchical ladder and learn from everyone who has relevant knowledge to share.” Recruiting a diverse team is just the first step – ensuring they are heard is essential.   

Achieving inclusion is hard work, especially at a time when western societies are more divided, and we seem to be less inclined to tolerate views that don’t align with our own. Two-fifths of employees cite the challenge of respecting and accepting the differences of others and understanding ethnic and cultural differences as key barriers to achieving workplace equality and inclusion. 

Corporate security is near the back of the pack on diversity – and needs to catch up fast  

In Security’s 2020 Security Report, 81% of security executives included in the rankings were male, and many corporate security departments are staffed almost exclusively by former police and military officers. The challenge of shifting these trends is compounded by difficulties the industry has faced finding and keeping talent in the past couple of years.   

Diversity isn’t just critical to performance today – it will impact a corporate security department’s ability to attract the best talent in the future. Diversity is important across all generations, but especially for Gen Z. More than half said they would be hesitant to take a job from an organization that claimed it was diverse but did not have any diversity in leadership roles, and it is just as important a deciding factor in taking a job for them as salary. Put bluntly, diversity is becoming a safety and security issue for corporations.  

CSOs can do five things to build diverse and inclusive teams – and influence at the highest levels of their corporations 

Think like a sports coach recruit for team as well as individual talent 

Complement your skills matrix with a perspective matrix to bring a diversity of views and experiences together. Recruiting the second-best technical candidate might be more beneficial for overall team performance.   

Spread the net – design a recruitment process that can reach all the talent 

Revisit your hiring procedures to ensure your job descriptions provide flexibility to attract diverse talent. Ensure your selection process is not biased towards certain educational, career or community background. Field a diverse recruitment team to bring out more from each candidate. Reconsider the necessity of an undergraduate education if this might exclude some communities.  

Foster new talent – support a diverse set of leaders

Ensure high-visibility work is spread across the team because it creates opportunities for career enhancement. Put in place a retention policy – 65% of executives of large global corporations surveyed by Forbes said they have a plan to recruit a diverse work force but only 44% had employee retention programmes. 

Lead by example – manage your team inclusively 

Reconfigure team and meeting structures to enable a diversity of voices to be heard. Always speak last in a meeting to avoid skewing the conversation, and invest in leadership training for colleagues across the team. Partner with HR to learn about best practices. Set targets for yourself for representation and inclusion – hold yourself accountable. 

Be the change you want to see – be a diversity champion 

Almost all corporate leaders agree that diversity and inclusion is a top priority but only one-third believe it’s currently a strength for their corporation. The vast majority of HR professionals think their company is “going through the motions. Use this opportunity to lead by example – show what’s possible and lead from the front. 

The Clarity Factory can help 

If you’d like help working out how to make your corporate security function more diverse, retain talent and lead inclusively, and influence across your organization, get in touch. 

Further reading 

If you’d like to dive deeper on diversity and inclusion, we recommend:  

, McKinsey & Company, May 2020

, Gena Cox and David Lancefield,Harvard Business Review, 19 May 2021